There are some families that are big, rowdy, diverse and open to taking anyone who wants to join. They aren’t steeped in generations of cultural lore, not sure which part of the world they hail from and have no real clue when they made the trip across the Atlantic. Think Modern Family or The Brady Bunch.
Then there are those families that are a bit more prim, proper and are very particular about who gets to join for Christmas dinner. They can trace their ancestors back centuries and know exactly where and when they immigrated to the U.S. Kind of like the families of The Crown or royalty. No surprises and no new-comers.
Both are families. Both are full of good people and both are necessary for our world to keep spinning.
The cattle industry is similar. Some farms are full of the big, rowdy, diverse cow families. These are called commercial cow herds. The owner knows they are all good cows with the ability to produce high-quality meat. But he’s not as sure who the grandfather of the rowdy little heifer is or the exact genetic lineage of his favorite old cow. He does know, however, that whoever owned these cows before him took good care of them and that with a well-balanced diet they’ll do just fine under his care. The family pictures may be a bit hectic but the herd is one, big, happy cow family.
Other farms keep an orderly nature about them. Each new male is vetted and his lineage is tracked back over multiple generations. Mating is strategic and well planned. The family photo is a master class in homogeneity, and that’s just the way the cowboy wants it. You know what you get when you hang out with this herd. These are called registered beef herds and anyone who’s interested in the lineage of any animal in that herd can pull the paperwork.
A vast majority of cattle owners in the U.S. have commercial herds. These animal are hearty and raised for beef production. The herds are diverse and carry a variety of genetics and breeds. Owners follow rules for hormones and the use of any antibiotics administered to sick animals. Their beef is no less quality than that of a registered animal. They are the makers of your McDonald’s cheeseburgers and your Ruth’s Chris steaks.
But a small number of cattle owners raise registered herds. These owners have prioritized a certain quality or trait – size, growth, beef quality or ability to convert feed to muscle. By analyzing genetic traits, measuring different outcomes (referred to as Expected Progeny Differences or EPDs) and using the skills we all learned in our middle school genetics lab, these registered herd owners can produce an animal that meets their particular needs or fill a need within the larger beef industry. Most often, traits are heightened through a register herd to improve the overall genetic quality in a commercial herd.
For more than two decades, the Farmer Hubs has raised a commercial cow herd. He’s the fourth generation of his family to raise cattle and he loves his cows and takes pride in his calves and the quality of meat his animals produce. Now he’s officially started a registered herd to better control the genetics in his animals and produce cows and bulls that meet his exact needs. It’s a long-term business that takes years of studying genetics, learning from others, breeding animals and watching the results.
Maintaining a registered herd requires an additional layer of documentation and record keeping. Each animal has to be registered with the Angus Associaton, meaning we have to know the Dam (mother) and Sire (father). We need to collect blood to allow them to track DNA and we have to keep each animal tagged so we can identify it at all times. While a registered herd has a smaller pool of genetics than a commercial herd, registered herd owners will look to other registered herds to pick up a genetic trait that they need in their animals. Registered herds are constantly evolving and changing to meet the always-changing demands of the end consumer – you!
We will always maintain our commercial cow herd. Those ladies are fun and productive and great mommas. But the Farmer Hubs has high hopes for growing a Registered herd that has genetics and qualities others in the beef industry will find attractive. Sawyer Family Angus has been born and we’re excited to build a high-quality, productive cow family.
You can follow along with our new herd at Sawyer Family Angus on Facebook.